London, Western communities partner on reading initiative

With walking tours, trivia nights, food tasting events and art programming, this goes beyond your average book club experience.

Aiming to engage readers from all corners of the city, while celebrating Canada’s sesquicentennial, the London Public Library (LPL) recently launched its One Book, One London initiative. The program is a partnership with a number of local organizations – including Western – which invites members of the London community to collectively read Emma Hooper’s Etta and Otto and Russell and James over the coming months.

“We chose a Canadian book by a Canadian author. We wanted to make sure it was something that would reflect Canadian experience, a book that would have a real Canadian feel. It’s important to embrace Canadian authorship and our heritage,” said LPL librarian Kristen Caschera.

In the book, Etta’s greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. At the age of 82, she gets up one morning and begins walking the 2,000 miles to water in Halifax. The book is a story of a journey, a personal quest, memories, longing and unfulfilled desires. Much is told in letters and flashbacks with usage of magical realism.

While the LPL is offering traditional book club discussions leading up to this summer’s Canada 150 celebrations, it is also hosting a number of events in the city, including programs related to themes in the book – walking, letter writing, the Canadian landscape, baking, papier mâché and more. The initiative presented a great opportunity to bring the London community together and tie in community partners who likewise want to promote reading for pleasure, Caschera added. Western Libraries and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) was a perfect fit.

“We were excited by the idea right away, because we were looking for ways to get involved in Canada 150 and ways to work with FIMS,” said Jennifer Robinson, Associate Chief Librarian at Western. “Reading for pleasure is a good thing and we wanted to get students involved in both the reading aspect and also in the London community.”

Western Libraries has purchased 150 copies of Etta and Otto and Russell and James with plans of “book bombing” the campus community later this month, Robinson added. Books with One Book, One London branding and a tag of “Read it. Love it. Pass it on.” will be left around campus and deliberately distributed to staff, faculty and students.

“We want people to get the book, not hoard it, to read it and get it circulating around Western,” Robinson continued, adding with undergraduate students preparing for exams, the goal is to encourage reading for pleasure as a way to destress. Plans are also in the works for an art therapy day at the end of the month to explore the book’s themes and provide students a creative outlet and opportunity to clear their minds.

Exploring the book’s themes presents an opportunity to involve faculty on campus and to add Western voices into the conversations surrounding the book, added FIMS librarian Marni Harrington.

“All these things fit together. There’s an issue of aging, memory loss. We have a PhD student whose work is about that. We have faculty members who have a book called Reading Matters, about the importance of reading for pleasure and the importance of libraries, and we hope to have a scholar come out who studies one book, one community initiatives,” she explained.

With many interesting aspects and themes to talk about, Etta and Otto and Russell and James can appeal to many readers and audiences. Western events tied to One Book, One London, like the LPL events, are open to all who wish to attend, Harrington added.

“The events are so broad and inclusive. And with the social media campaign, a Facebook page, there are lots of hooks to get people reading, and depending on the activity and the focus, it will draw different people. Hopefully, lots will be hooked from the beginning and want to attend many events.”

READ ON

The London Public Library, in partnership with Western and other local organizations, is running a community reading initiative, One Book, One London, encouraging the local community to read Emma Hooper’s Etta and Otto and Russell and James in preparation for Canada 150 celebrations. For event details, including an author event in April, visit londonpubliclibrary.ca.

A student art therapy papier mache event will take place March 27-28 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the D.B. Weldon Library atrium.